San Francisco

I am heading to San Francisco, Sonoma and Bodega Bay in a couple of weeks and am itching to get on the water after a long and dreary winter in New England. Does anyone have any recommendations for some short “must do” trips in any of those areas?

Lots of places
to paddle. The most popular paddles our club does when we travel to SF it to or around Angel Island, with a tour of Tiburon and Sausalito, or the Tomales Bay, which is in a beautiful natural area (Point Reyes Seashore) which has a lot of wildlife and hiking opportunities.

I checked some other posts, and it looks like you are a petite person who likes more laid back trips and touring. Tomales Bay would be my first pick.

If you want a treat, or want to develop some more open water skills, give Sean Morley a call - if you call far enough in advance you might fit in with his schedule. Sean could also arrange for a suitable kayak for your size.

You could also call Sea Trek, whose info is posted on Sean’s site.

Check BASK
Check the Bay Area Sea Kayakers site

many places
If you head down towards Monterey, Elkhorn Slough is great for wildlife.

Drakes Esterro up in Point Reyes is also amazing, but is closed until end of June for seal pupping season.

If you do go for the Angel Island Paddle, you may want to check the tide charts (or have a local check) as there can be some pretty strong currents and tide rips in the area. Generally doesn’t make it impossible to do, but there is often an easy way and hard way to go around the island, depending on tides.

April should be whale watch time, if you are comfortable on the ocean. The female grays are heading north with calves, and they stay very close to shore (almost at the surf line) to keep their little ones away from Orcas.

If you are renting boats, you may be a bit more limited in what you can do. Elkhorn and Tomales have renal places right there. You can do Angel Island from Sea Trek. If you have it, bring some sort of proof that you know how to wet exit and self rescue.

Elkhorn Slough
I’ve done the Elkhorn Slough in Monterey. It’s where I had an otter float next to my kayak as he went under the water to get shells to break open on the rock on his belly. Lots of seals and babies on the banks. It was on a trip to CA, so I’m not familiar w/other kayaking.

I’ve only hiked in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. If you have rough waters, hike the Alamere Falls trail. The falls goes over onto the beach, a nice place to picnic and an easy trail to hike.


San Francisco You can rent an Avocet, Avocet LV or even a Chatham. If they are giving a tour during the time you are here you might check it out.

You can also rent kayaks at Tomales Bay. We would normally paddle towards the mouth on the ebb and come back on the flood. It can get “very” windy so check the weather.

The BASK website is

If you get to Monterey, check out Monterey Bay Kayaks, for a tour or to rent a boat.


San Francisco

California Canoe and Kayak has a place
right on the Alameda estuary and they rent. The water is cold all year round so bring a wetsuit or drysuit. I second paddling to Angel Island from Sausalito and also Tomales Bay as great areas to paddle and closer to where you’ll be than Monterey. I’d skip the Bodega Bay area and paddle in Tomales Bay instead.

I forgot all about…
I forgot all about a site that details much of what you would need to know:

Elkhorn Slough:

Tomales Bay:

Sausalito (where you would likely launch for Angel Island - there are multiple launch points in Sausalito, but this is the one where Sea Trek is at, should you need to rent boats or gear).

If you didn’t need to rent, I would probably go from:

Do many people paddle in the Bay?
Can one paddle out to Alcatraz? My daughter moved out there last fall for school and I was going to plan a day paddle on one of my visits out there.



yes, but
it’s not protected paddling and you need to know the tides.

Pt. Richmond
from the park out and around Red Rock Island is scenic.

And you can not land
on Alcatraz. Lots of boat and ship traffic too.

Are there any wicked currents
around Red Rock?

Tomales Bay has a cool B&B
right on the water. Can rent kayaks next door at Blue Waters.

The Golden Hinde is the name.

only on either ends
I don’t recall anything as strong as what happens between Angel Island and Sausalito. The main channel takes most of the water so what comes around RedRock is manageable. There was more noticable current up around the Brothers Islands on the other side of the bridge.

The east side of RedRock has a long shallow sandy ridge you can take on side or the other, the west side is rocky.

The island is COVERED with poison oak so if you’re sensitive don’t head up into it.

Tomales is wonderful
and Pt.Reyes Station Blue cheese is good too!

Ok, all of you who suggested Tomales Bay were right, it was incredible!!!I think between Tomales and Sonoma I have found my new favorite vacation spot. Thanks for all the great advise, my husband and I are thinking of returning in October to do a little more exploring and enjoy harvest time in wine country. What a great trip!!! If anyone in the area thinks of other little known spots to check out upon our return trip please let me know.

On Alcatraz…
Not only can’t you land there, but sometimes the authorities (usually SF Police Boat) will shoo you away. Seems you aren’t supposed to be within some 200 feet of the island. I was on a group paddle there, and we were resting to the side of the island waiting for the Alcatraz ferry to pass before we continued on, and the police boat came roaring up with its lights going.

You’re welcome
And you are lucky if you are returning in October. That is the nicest month of the year. Weather and water are warm, usually light winds, calm seas,and great visibility.

Call Sean Morley or Sea Trek in advance and try to get a trip from Sausalito to Tiburon and then Angel Island. Spectacular views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, San Francisco, and Angel Island. The Island is a state park. You can picnic there and maybe take a hike - lots to see.

If you are ambitious and the winds are light and the tides timed right, you could consider circumnavigating the island, although most of what is interesting is on the protected side of Racoon Straights.

good to hear
one of the most beautiful spots is at a picnic bench above Hearts Desire Beach in Pt. Reyes State Park.